By Helen Kadirire
Panic has gripped the country following the death of a man in the border town of Beitbridge on Sunday from a disease whose symptoms match those of the deadly Ebola virus, which has resurfaced in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
Yesterday, government moved swiftly to allay fears that the cross-border haulage truck driver could not have succumbed to Ebola, saying he died as a result of meningitis.
Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa told the Daily News yesterday that the Beitbridge Border Post death had nothing to do with Ebola — a rare and deadly disease spread by direct contact with blood or body fluids of a person infected with the virus.
“Our health workers attended to a truck driver who had collapsed at a truck parking lot in Beitbridge,” he said.
“The truck driver was coming from South Africa into Zimbabwe. He died on admission at Beitbridge District Hospital and of note is he had defaulted on his chronic medication for some time. He had signs and symptoms of meningitis and not Ebola,” added Parirenyatwa.
The Health and Child Care minister said the man had visited the DRC more than a month ago to an area in Katanga Province near Zambia.
This area has not reported Ebola and it is an Ebola-free area.
Zimbabwe is, however, not leaving anything to chance and has since activated all the relevant organs to be on high alert.
“Our health workers are on high alert at all border crossings screening travellers into the country especially those that are sick,” said Parirenyatwa.
The DRC is currently in the throes of fighting the disease after it resurfaced in the mineral rich country less than three years after it killed 11 000 people in West Africa.
The latest outbreak of Ebola in the DRC has put the whole region on high alert following a warning by World Health Organisation director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus that the deadly disease had the potential to spread rapidly in DRC, which has effectively become a war zone.
“The environment is really conducive for Ebola to transmit freely. This is a very dangerous outbreak.
“What makes the outbreak in eastern DRC or northern Kivu more dangerous is there is a security challenge — there is active conflict in that area,” said Ghebreyesus.
He said the ongoing fighting in DRC, which has had 10 outbreaks of Ebola in the last 40 years, is making it difficult for health officials and aid agencies to access some areas that have been designated “red zones” due to the war.
This, he added, is making it hard to find, isolate and treat potential cases.
Ghebreyesus said the DRC war zones were potential “hiding places” for the disease, which WHO figures suggest has a mortality rate of about 50 percent.
According to the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), symptoms of Ebola include fever, severe headache, muscle pain, weakness, fatigue, diarrhoea, vomiting, abdominal (stomach) pain and unexplained haemorrhage (bleeding or bruising).
The CDC also said that symptoms may appear from between two to 21 days after contact with the virus, with an average of eight to 10 days. DailyNews